The Whole Valley Is One Barren Waste~ October 1864~ 14th to 16th

The Whole Valley Is One Barren Waste ~ W. A. Stilwell.

Sheridan’s troops are conducting a scorched earth policy in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, much like what Sherman and his soldiers are about to do afresh in Georgia, a savage and bitter harvest of fratricidal war. Women maintain hope and courage. President Lincoln seems more hopeful about his reelection. President Davis seems increasingly worried. Southern soldiers hope for an electoral victory by McClellan and the coming of peace.


October 14– Friday– Dooly County, Georgia– “There is much sickness in our neighborhood. Sis Graham has been very sick. I sit up there last night to assist in giving physic. She was much better this morning and I think will be well in a few days. Pa is complaining today. I hope tis nothing more than cold. Such a sudden change in the weather is I guess what has produced so much sickness. It has been very cold for the past week. Several mornings had white frost. Farmers are busy gathering their crops. The corn crop is not so good this year as last. The potato and cane crops are very good. In a short time we will commence making syrup and sugar from the ‘good cane’ as the children call it. We will certainly have some for you when you come to see us. Last winter when your furlough was disapproved you said you thought when you made application again you wouldn’t say anything about it, to prevent anyone from being disappointed. Now, I do think you ought to tell me. Very often I leave home to spend a few days with my relatives and friends and when you come I want to be at home. It would certainly be a sad disappointment were you to come and I be from home. So it is a special request of mine that you must tell me.” ~ Letter from Maggie Cone to her fiancé Alva Benjamin Spencer,

October 14–Friday– New Orleans, Louisiana– The Tribune, a newspaper for black people begins publication in both French and English.

October 14– Friday– Klamath Lake, Oregon– Representatives of the United States government conclude a treaty with representatives of the Klamath and Modoc tribes, and the Yahooskin band of Snake Indians, promising money and supplies over a period of years in return for possession of certain lands inhabited by these peoples. [As with other treaties made with Native Americans the United States will break the treaty provisions within a few short years.]

October 15– Saturday– New York City– “Walk tonight and look in at the Club, seeking news and finding none. Mr [Samuel] Ruggles [Strong’s father-in-law] looked in before dinner. Just returned from Washington. Abraham, the Venerable, says to him, ‘It does look as if the people wanted me to stay here a little longer, and I suppose I shall have to, if they do.’”~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

Lincoln campaign poster

Lincoln campaign poster

October 15– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “The speeches of Jeff Davis betoken the close of the War. The rebellion is becoming exhausted, and I hope ere many months will be entirely suppressed. Not that there may not be lingering banditti to rob and murder for a while longer, the offspring of a demoralized state of society, but the organized rebellion cannot long endure.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

October 15– Saturday– near Strasburg, Virginia– “The whole valley is one barren waste, all the barns, mill and public houses have been burned up by Yankees, crops destroyed, dwellings sacked and plundered. The people are generally loyal to the Confederates. The other day after the battle, I seen and talked with two ladies while walking about the garden when the Yankee dead was lying all around them. Think of ladies walking over dead men, laughing as though nothing had happened. They stayed at home all the time of the battle and we fought all around the house. Could you do it, Molly? If you could have seen your own dear Billie as his horse went flying over the field carrying orders while the shells and shot was bursting and flying all around him I know you would admire him, if possible, more than ever. You must not scold me Molly for I had rather see Yankees run and fall than any thing else on earth, except you and the children. Of course, I don’t want to hurt them if they will let us alone, but if not, I love to see them scatter and skedaddle.” ~ Letter from Confederate officer W. A. Stilwell to his wife Molly.

Sheridan & his troops in the Shenandoah Valley

Sheridan & his troops in the Shenandoah Valley

October 15– Saturday– Fisher’s Hill Virginia– “I last night received your fine letter of the 10th (Monday). I have written to you since then, from New Market, & hope my letter has come to hand before now & cheered you up some. I am truly sorry you feel so despondent & take so much thought for the morrow.’ I am sure I could cheer you up if at home, but you must ‘fear not but trust in Providence & remember that the Lord has always provided for us & promises that the seed of the righteous shall never be forsaken.’ We have been here now three days . . . . no action has taken place, each party looking at the other & wondering what it was doing. The prospect seems bright in every quarter – things get along well at Richmond & Hood has surely made one of the boldest movements of the war & must be successful if the half that is said of his army is true – in fact we have always gained by taking bold measures & if Sherman is compelled to leave Georgia there will be a great revulsion of feeling in the North & peace sentiments will be in fashion again. Connecticut appears to have gone for McClellan – we are desirous of hearing from the Pennsylvania election – a lady from the West, who has lately come to New Market, says the West will go for McClellan, & Price is doing much in his favor by occupying the larger portion of Missouri. I hope you may be able to get some wood for present use. I intend to get home before long & attend to the hauling & cutting up of a winter supply. I shall be able to get fodder enough & I will put one horse into my pocket if I can do no better. I am sorry Mr. Geeding got offended, for I thought the government would impress his hay & he would be just as willing to let me have some of it but no matter – he has done much for us & I have no right or reason to complain of him. I asked you about Captain Sterrett in my last [letter]– did he have time to go to Richmond? I do not need my clothes & prefer that you keep them at home. I am sorry you were disappointed about coming over to camp, but I knew our movements were very uncertain as I wrote you. I do not know what we will do here. I will write often. Write soon. Love to the children & may Heaven bless you all.” ~ Letter from Confederate officer Jedediah Hotchkiss to his wife Sara.


October 15– Saturday– Petersburg, Virginia– “I can very easily understand, the cause of the scarcity of news from Georgia. It is, no doubt, withheld to prevent the authorities in Washington from gaining any information in reference to the army around Atlanta and not that the news is of such a character as to warrant its being held from the people. I have too much confidence in our authorities, for a moment to believe they would withhold from the people anything, good or bad. You know not how glad I am to know that the people of Georgia have again determined never to be subjugated. I confess I, at one time, feared that, those few execrable reconstructionists, would cause some trouble in our already deeply afflicted country; but thanks to a brave and patriotic people, such sentiments have been crushed, and the ‘Empire State of the South’ is as uncompromising as ever. Aside from the many other Sacrifices our noble people have made, isn’t the fact, that amidst the darkest hour of our history, our people have again expressed their determination to be free, enough to cause every Georgian’s heart to leap for joy? Such a people can never be conquered. President Davis’ recent visit to Georgia, has, I’ve no doubt. had an influence in producing this glorious change among our people; but I think, by far the greatest influence has been excited by the ladies discountenancing the laggards and skulkers. Always, when dark clouds of oppression were lowering over our devoted country, threatening to engulf us in everlasting disgrace and infamy, they, the ‘Women of the South’, were seen alleviating the sufferings of the sick and wounded soldiers, encouraging the despondent, and frowning upon the inactive, and exerting themselves to the utmost, in securing the liberties of their country.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee Maggie Cone.

October 15– Saturday– Cleveland, Tennessee– “Sister, Cousin M. Jarnagin, Mrs. Rumple, Lizzie Rhoda, Jimmie & I went up to view the fortifications & deserted Yankee encampment this morn. I have the headache this evening & laid down to take a nap. I will be so disappointed if the Rebels do not come. I still look for them a little.” ~ Diary of Myra Adelaide Inman.


October 16– Sunday– West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “With shame I must confess that I have been very negligent in my correspondence Heretofore. But I will make an apology in this wise, living on the expectation of getting to the State Election, but it was promise and no performance . . . . I, being so often deceived about getting home, I shall make no rash promises [about] when I get home. Tomorrow I expect to be transferred into the Printing Office. I shall never be able to do Field Service. It may be that I will get my discharge this winter. I cannot tell but my 16 dollars per month here this winter is more than I could make at home. Then I will have a warm place to stay and not much to do. . . . The talk is that we will all get home to the Presidential Election but that was the talk that we would get home to the State Election but it was in vain. In this letter I enclose you 20 dollars– you will see that my family is cared for. In my next letter I will send you some more money. Let me know as soon as you get this money so that I will not be uneasy in it getting lost.” ~ Letter from wounded Union soldier Franklin Rosenbery to his father Abraham and step-mother Mary Jane.

October 16– Sunday– Winchester, Virginia– “Several sutlers have opened stores in the city for sale to soldiers but citizens cannot purchase except on a permit signed by the Provost Marshal. It is very amusing to see the people apply for permits. Hoop skirts and shoes, hairpins, ribbons and laces seem to be in demand by the fair ones of Winchester. The soldiers sometimes buy these articles for the people but it has [now] been forbidden.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

October 16– Sunday– Petersburg, Virginia– “My health is excellent at this time and I am getting on finely. I have a good amount of walking to do which just gives me a good appetite, an article which I am very seldom in need of whether I walk much or not. Today is Sunday. I rose early this morning and went to a spring about 150 yards distant which spouts through a trough and took a good wash, [ate] breakfast and then went down on the line to the four Companies nearest to us and got the reports from them, returned and am now sitting in our little room. I will finish and then go to the remaining six Companies and get their reports, come back and eat dinner and probably go to town for evening preaching. This will give you a small idea of my daily avocation, though it varies to a great extent some days. We have beautiful weather now, cool or rather cold at night, and fair and pleasant in the day time. All is quiet on the lines this morning but there was heavy shelling last night, and a few shells were thrown into Petersburg yesterday evening, for the first in some time. I was in town myself at the time, and one shell fell near me but did not explode. The citizens do not seem to care for it atall scarcely. The ladies were promenading the streets at the time and did not even quicken their pace.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.


October 16– Sunday– Atlanta, Georgia– “I am here stopping at division headquarters. The first night I stopped at the Trout House, but it was so very unpleasant, and I have been invited to stay at division headquarters. The railroad has been torn up again between Resaca and Tunnel Hill. I have full faith that General Sherman will succeed in rendering his communication secure, and thus hold on to all that he has gained, but it is idle to deny that there is danger. We have intelligence that the rebels retreated southward from Dalton, and that the railroad is cleared of rebels and a good portion also cleared of rails. It is said that it will be repaired in about ten days. I am afraid they will strike out again south of Resaca.” ~ Letter of Union officer Fredrick C. Winkler to his wife Frances.

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